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Flashback: '90 Redskins Silenced Eagles

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As part of one of the oldest rivalries in the NFL, the Redskins and Eagles have produced many memorable moments since they began playing each other in 1934.

There was the Redskins' 21-point explosion in 2:17 in a 31-30 win over the Eagles in 1955. Or the Eagles' recovery from a 20-0 deficit in a 42-37 victory at RFK Stadium in 1989. Toss in the Redskins' 13-3 upset of the Eagles in 2001 that lifted them to 5-5 after an 0-5 start.

Plus, the two teams orchestrated one of the most lopsided trades NFL history, the 1964 swap that sent quarterback Norm Snead to the Eagles for future Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen.

The I-95 foes have also clashed in the playoffs. On Jan. 4, 1991 at old Veterans Stadium in Philly, the Redskins pulled off an emotional 20-6 victory. In doing so, they exorcised their demons from the horrific night two months earlier when the Eagles pummeled them in the infamous "body bag" game.

"When you get your clock cleaned like that, all we had to do was show the film," said Joe Gibbs, the Redskins' coach at the time. "Probably the biggest motivating factor is to whip somebody really good, and they'll remember it."

In the days prior to the game, Eagles players did their share of chest-thumping thinking they would again humiliate the Redskins. Their brash and bombastic coach, Buddy Ryan, also mouthed off.

He predicted that Redskins running back Earnest Byner, whose late fumble likely cost the Browns the 1987 AFC title game against Denver, would cough up the ball three times. When informed by the press of Ryan's comment, Gibbs refused to respond.

"That was the big difference between Buddy and Gibbs," said Ray Didinger, a Philadelphia Daily News sportswriter at the time. "Buddy tried to win the game from Monday to Friday, as much as he tried to win it on game day, and Joe understood better than anybody that what you said (during the week) didn't matter."

The Eagles were inept on both sides of the ball. Redskin defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon devised a scheme that befuddled Philly's offense and scrambling quarterback Randall Cunningham, who was sacked five times.

Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien, not sacked at all, picked apart the Eagles' ferocious defense. Byner accounted for 126 total yards.

Cunningham struck first, hitting tight end Keith Jackson for a 66-yard gain to the Redskins' 11. Washington's defense stiffened, and linebacker Monte Coleman sacked Cunningham for a 10-yard loss, forcing Philly to settle for a field goal.

In the second period, the Eagles recovered a fumble and took possession on the Redskins' 25. They drove to the 2, but the defense again held them to a field goal.

Rypien shifted into gear. He hit receiver Art Monk for 28 yards and connected with Byner for 23 more, then found Monk for a 16-yard touchdown. Chip Lohmiller's conversion put Washington up, 7-6, about six minutes before halftime.

After regaining possession, the Redskins drove deep into Eagles territory, where Rypien connected with Byner in the flat for about 10 yards. But Byner fumbled upon hitting the ground, and cornerback Ben Smith picked up the ball and ran 94 yards for a touchdown.

Suddenly, Buddy looked like a genius.

But the officials reviewed the play and ruled that Byner's knee hit the ground before he fumbled, sending the Eagles and their fans into a rage. Lohmiller hit a field goal to make it 10-6 at halftime.

In the third quarter, Lohmiller was true again from close range to put the Redskins up, 13-6, while Cunningham continued to struggle against Petitbon's  defensive scheme, prompting Ryan to make a controversial move.

He benched Cunningham and put in veteran Jim McMahon, who threw three incomplete passes. Rypien iced the victory on the Redskins' next possession with a 3-yard scoring pass to Gary Clark for a 20-6 lead.

Unlike the Eagles, the Redskins refused to taunt. Offensive line coach Jim Hanifan remembered a few players walking on the sidelines late in the game saying, "Nobody say anything bad. Let's not even talk about it."

In the post-game locker room, Gibbs implored his troops to "win with style." Ryan, a loser of three straight opening-round playoff games, was fired a few days later.


Mike Richman is the author of The Redskins Encyclopedia and the Washington Redskins Football Vault. His web site is www.redskinshistorian.com and his email is mikerichman@redskinshistorian.com.

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